The fall festival season was once upon a time (circa 2019,) and marked a major fashion shift. Celebrities led the way from casual vacation clothes to high-octane autumn sizzle at the red carpet. This fall marks the return to full gear for major film events.
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The Venice International Film Festival starts on August 31st, and runs until September 10. Toronto International Film FestivalWith programming running from September 8-18, the baton is handed to the next person. What can we expect?
First, it is important to choose the right location. Cannes is 12 days in May and the Riviera’s relentless sun permeates all aspects of fashion. Venice is the most romantic city on the planet, and its red carpet is full of wit, whimsy, and all-out glamour.
Toronto’s TIFF experience, meanwhile, is set against a backdrop of concrete and gridlock. “It’s possibly the most urban festival,”Bronwyn Cosgrave is the author of a landmark book bookRed carpets Fashion and the Academy Awards: Made for each Other. TIFF is also the people’s festival, where normal people get to buy tickets to watch alongside the Cartier crowd. Then there’s logistics: Movies debut at all times of the day and night, complicating gown selections.
Toronto has seen some notable red carpet moments. Cosgrave describes how “Lupita Nyong’o put Toronto on the map,”2013 was the year she arrived at the festival wearing a white Prada knit. Three years later, she was still wearing her Prada white knit. Queen of KatweIn a Carolina Herrera Carolina Herrera, she was an absolute delight. JLo stunned in a Maison Yeya yellow gown in 2019. Hustlers red carpet, a year after Lady Gaga memorably wore black Armani Privé with an elaborate veiled hat for the A Star is Born premiere.
Cosgrave, however, believes that the red carpet has changed dramatically due to social networking and not the effects of the pandemic. “I think awards shows are really in danger. We’re in a moment when stylists have declared they would rather not have an in-person, real-time red carpet.”In fact, stylists have begun to trump the red carpet process entirely by posting images of their clients on Instagram before the call time. When people can see the looks on their phone, what’s the incentive to tune into a broadcast?
Then there’s a more subtle sartorial shift. As a growing number of women in Hollywood transcend acting to also pursue filmmaking and producing, they’re also transforming how they present themselves. The biggest buzz right now surrounds Olivia Wilde bringing her hotly anticipated Harry Styles–Florence Pugh–starring drama Don’t Worry DarlingVenice. Will Wilde do it differently? “seriously”At the helm of her second feature is she?
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Cosgrave said it: “When Sofia Coppola was Oscar-nominated [for Lost in Translation in 2004] she brought the red carpet into the 21st century.”Coppola wore Marc Jacobs’ avantgarde eggplant dress. She was elegant and authoritative. Coppola also wore flats, a choice Cosgrave claims was surprising, even rebellious for a red carpet.
Cosgrave mentions Kathryn Bigelow, a female director who was sartorially significant. The Hurt Locker For her choice of a sleek, grey YSL dress when she won the Oscar for best director in 2010.
Cosgrave says that these days, “Directors don’t typically go in gowns. They have to walk that fine line between serious and fashion elegance.”
After all, we just saw Wilde in a sapphire blue velvet pantsuit by Alberta Ferretti at CinemaCon in Las Vegas—an outfit also memorable because it rippled through the tabloids as she was wearing it while being served custody papers from her ex, Jason Sudeikis. (Ouch.)
Talia Brown-Thall, a Toronto stylist who most recently dressed Avril Lavigne for her summer Love Sux tour, also predicts we’ll see Wilde in power suits this premiere season. “I can see her doing a wide-legged pantsuit with a fitted blazer. I can see her in black and white, or a sharp jewel tone, a blazer over silk shirt. I can see Chanel. She’s edgy and very into fashion. She won’t play it safe, but she will play it classy.”
Karla Welch, a Canadian-born star who styled Wilde, will make sure that her clothes are memorable and have meaning. Cosgrave: “This film is Wilde trying to put herself forward [as a filmmaker] for the long haul. She can’t just grab a free dress.”
Joanna Hogg, 62, is another female director who will be appearing on the fall festival’s carpets. She premieres her film.The Eternal Daugher, starring Tilda Swinton. Lena Dunham will be exhibiting at TIFF. Catherine Called Birdy, and Sanaa Lathan, another actor-turned-director brings On the Come UpBased on Angie Thomas’ book
Cosgrave says the era of political statements on the red carpet—like Natalie Portman’s 2020 custom Dior embroidered with the names of eight female directors—may not be over. “A stylist ignores world events at their peril,”Cosgrave. “Look at the Met Gala. As it was happening, Roe versus Wade was being overturned. You can’t dress up like a circus performer when the world is so volatile.”
Trends are always in fashion. Brown-Thall predicts that a premiere season will include classic fall fabrics like velvets and tweeds. She also sees romance. “Think Oscar de la Renta, big drapey sleeves and soft florals.”
Oh, and sparkle. Bulgari is a shiny new TIFF sponsor, so both Cosgrave and Brown-Thall expect to see honkin’ big jewellery on the red carpet. Plus all the bodyguards that come with large rock loans. It provides a little bit of the excitement and high stakes film culture has been missing in recent years. Brown-Thall said, “What’s more Hollywood than high gloves and big, glam jewels?”
Let’s give the last word to Wilde, who spoke to The Kit When she directed her first feature, Booksmart (2019): “Becoming a director was also a chance to say, ‘I want my ideas to be more valuable than my physical appearance.’ I have to say it’s pretty f—ing satisfying.”
She said that strength in dressing can also include softness, but serious can also include being sexy. “I think people are still struggling with the idea of nuance with femininity,”She said. “We’ve worked so hard to prove that women can be strong and smart that we forget that they can also be sexy and beautiful in the same package. It doesn’t need to be one or the other.”Does this sound like the future?